Brent’s leaves sent to landfill over contamination fears

Cllr James Denselow, left, with Labour candidates for Queens Park Neil Nerva and Ellie Southwood.

Cllr James Denselow, left, with Labour candidates for Queens Park Neil Nerva and Ellie Southwood. - Credit: Archant

Leaves from Brent’s streets are being dumped in bags for landfill at taxpayer’s expense this autumn because of contamination fears.

But the ruling, from the Environment Agency, also says fallen leaves, sometimes just inches away in parks, are deemed safe for composting.

Last week, Queens Park resident Neil Nerva noticed leaves on his nearby streets piled into bags ready for landfill.

Concerned with the high costs of dealing with landfill waste, Mr Nerva contacted Chris Whyte, Brent Council’s head of recycling and waste.

Mr Whyte said: “New instruction from the Environment Agency is that leaves collected as part of street sweeping cannot be composted because of the risk of contaminants.

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“We are not permitted to compost this material.”

Mr Nerva said: “Putting leaves into landfill is very bad scientifically and costs more.

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“If Brent can’t do that, it’s seriously bad news for the taxpayer and the environment.

“We are calling on the Environment Agency to be more supportive of councils who want to recycle.”

On Monday, Brent Council awarded its public realm contract to Veolia ES (UK).

Veolia is already responsible for the borough’s street cleaning and the renewed contract, effective from April, will see the company continue that service.

Cllr James Denselow, who represents Queen’s Park, said: “We (the council) have signed the public realm contract.

“We have massively increased recycling rates over the last three years and the new contract will aim to increase that further.

“It seems that we have rules from above about what is a good leaf and what is a bad leaf.

“I will be asking Cllr Roxanne Mashari (lead member for environments and neighbourhoods) to write to the EA to raise the issue.”

A spokesman for the EA said: “Leaf litter collected from parks is great for composting, but in the past tests have shown that leaves swept up from the gutter are not suitable for composting.

“We want to encourage local authorities in their efforts to reuse as much waste as possible but we have to ensure that compost is of a high enough standard not to harm human health or the environment.

Last year, the EA ran trials to test the safety of composting leaves from gutters.

But it was revealed the leaves contained high and variable levels of carcinogenic contaminates which cannot be composted and spread on agricultural land.

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